1965-08-26 - Coming down the mountain
Summary: Adam and Halgrim take a walk on the wild side.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
halgrim adam 

If the various rumors of a 'Central Park Cryptid' have established anything, it's that the Fjorskar likes to be in the wild. Really this shouldn't come as a surprise, considering where Halgrim found the amulet and how his first few mishaps with it turned out. Still, it's not as if being possessed by an angry animal-spirit-mass came with a manual detailing its wants and needs.

There's only so much the beast can do in Central Park without killing a person instead of whatever it's been getting up to, which probably means what it needs is a break from the city. Or so Adam suggests, and Halgrim himself doesn't mind the idea of a trip, truth be told; the recent catastrophic failure of Elmo and Jeb's interactions, fall semester preparations, and the chaos a few blocks from his home have all added up to a pressure he can't handle. And, there's nothing like desk work and undergrad teaching for over a year to remind you just how much you miss being in the field, even just recreationally.

Halgrim has no car, so it's the train for them, him inside the passenger car and Adam riding on top. This occasionally garners stares and gestures of exclamation from onlookers on foot or in cars when they're still in areas populated enough for it, but presently the train exits the city and suburbs, and with remarkable speed the undeveloped areas beyond engulf them. Only the occasional cow, horse, or wild creature sees him as the train meanders up the Hudson River, and they're indifferent to Adam's chosen mode of transportation.

The train leaves them in Hudson, from which they find a bus over the river and into the park. The whole ride the driver keeps looking at the two of them nervously; when they exit as placidly as they entered, he breathes a huge sigh of relief, and speeds away to his next stop with all due haste. It's probably for the best that no one else ever got on.

"I suppose he might call someone," Halgrim comments absently as they turn to enter the park. "So we should find our way off a trail and out of sight." The ranger station sits dark and locked, meaning there's no one to intercept them on their way in. Just beyond the humble building lies a shallow pond in a meadow of bright green grass, full of evening bird song as robins and others argue in the approaching twlight. The meadow gradually gives way to a dense forest of brilliant red-leafed maple, black cherry trees heavy with fruit, and gleaming white paper bark birch. They form a colorful wall, beyond which lies the wilderness proper: hundreds of thousands of acres of it, with no concrete or roads or cars.

It almost seems normal for Adam to literally ride the train. He's clearly done this kind of thing a lot. Cloak off, he just climbs the back of the train when it pulls into the station. Surprisingly he is quite good at managing it without being noticed. He lurks behind equipment until the train arrived, then moves fast, scaling the back of the last car with the eerie ease of a spider. A little kid sees him, shrieks and points, but is quickly hushed by her harried mother. "But mommy, I saw Frankenstein!" "No you didn't, now stop, we have a long ride."

The bus is a different story. He puts his cloak back on and squeezes in after Halgrim with a kind of wry determination. "My weight would tip it off its wheels," he explains in his double-bass voice. The bus driver just has to cope with a nine-foot-tall cloak on his bus.

When he and Halgrim finally reach their destination, he throws back his hood, raising his huge ugly head to the soft golden evening light. There's nothing short of ecstasy on his craggy face. The golden hour light is kind to him, painting his surreal features as if he's a work of fantastical imagination. His massive boots move lightly over the meadow grass. He's *at home* here.

"Nature blesses us with her charms," he says, voice suddenly a lot louder. Not because he's yelling, but because he talks very quietly in the city. This is his actual voice. "The man might call someone, what of it? They will never find us."

"Well, that's true enough," Halgrim says as they progress across the meadow to the trees. Seeing Adam's joy at their new surroundings, he gives himself leave to relax and be eased by them as well. With the risk to other people about as minimal as it could possibly be, the careful way he holds himself in the city bleeds away. He stops giving the impression he's a land mine waiting to be trod over; instead he's an arrow, knocked and ready, yet unlikely to deal significant collateral damage once loosed.

He has a small hiking pack with him, just enough for a brief trip of two or so days. The garrish colors intended to make hikers stand out have long since faded, and more than one seam has been patched several times. No doubt this pack has seen more than a few continents in its long service. There's no heavy camping gear in it; no lantern, fuel, cook kit, or lean-to. Just the basics: dried fruit, nuts, and jerky; a bottle of water; a spare change of clothes; a blanket; rope; a bedroll. He's unlikely to need anything else.

A crooked game trail leads them through the grass, along the stream feeding the pond and towards the shadows cast by the trees. From its place under a witch hazel a garter snake watches them pass. Something small and auburn coloreda weasel? a fisher?darts off the path into a raspberry bush. The voice of the river which produced the stream grows from a distant whisper to a proper rushing as they approach the treeline. "I'll need to find a reasonably tall tree to string up the pack. There are black bears here, I read, and lynxes."

Adam has nothing. He always has nothing, except his cloak, his clothes, and his journal. He needs no other possessions.

"We shall secure your victuals, fear not any prowlers." He looks down at Halgrim, and grins. It's rather awful. But he is delighted. His idea to take Halgrim out to where he could not possibly hurt anyone has turned out to be a good one. "Come! Let's make haste. I wish to be under the trees." And he springs into a run, enormous frame suddenly light as a fox running over snow.

Halgrim huffs a laugh. "I'm more concerned for the clothes, to be honest," he says, and sets after Adam at an easy pace he can probably keep up for some time. At least a year out of the field hasn't eroded his physicality.

Small creatures wriggle and take flight deeper into the grass as they pass through the last of the meadow. The fading light still has plenty of time left to it, yet in the trees dusk has already fallen. Ferns crowd at the bases of larger maples; squashberry and monkshood jockey for position along the stream's sandy banks, brilliant purple flowers against bright green grass. A fisher clambers out of the stream on the opposite bank, a flailing trout clutched tight in its teeth; it takes its prey into the bushes to feast, moving awkwardly as the trout refuses to cooperate.

The game trail continues next to the stream, which is is deepening and widening as it approaches the place where it branches off from the river (though it could still easily be jumped over by either of them). The rush of the river is a roar further on. The meadow is already lost to sight behind them, and new voices arise in place of the songbirds: an owl calls somewhere overhead, deep and soft; swallows dart across the stream's surface, seeking bugs, their high chirping and gurgling almost impossible to hear; frogs and crickets chatter back and forth, the one seeking the other.

Adam reaches the forest proper and slows down swiftly. The amount of control he has over his crafted body is impressive; he's a top-tier athlete in his abhuman way.

He goes slow, placing each step with care. Observing everything as he goes, touching the white bark of the birch, plucking a cherry and eating it whole, pit and all. Crunch. The last few stray beams of late sunlight falls through the trees, dappling him like a deer.

"Ah dear nature! The mere remembrance, after a short forgetfulness, of the woods! I come to her as a hungry man to a crust of bread." He quotes Thoreau, smiling. The expression makes his face crease into a thousand tiny folds. Yet, here, in the forest humming with midsummer dusk, he does not care about his ugliness, his awful genesis. Here, with none nearby except a fellow-monster, he can be himself. And, it seems, he is a romantic.

Halgrim slows as Adam does, pleasently flushed from the run. As the trees embrace them, his examination of their surroundings is a bittersweet mix of homesickness and homecoming. These aren't the green places he knew as a child or did his field work in, and the similarity is enough to remind him of how wonderful they were and are—and how they're denied to him now.

To take his mind off that and more firmly ground it in the beauty of now, he plucks a handful of squashberries and chews on them thoughtfully. He gazes out over the stream, between the trees, overhead, as he listens to Adam. "I cannot get thee close enough," he says, as if in agreement. A different poet, from a different time, but the sentiment is the same. He has a few more berries and gives Adam an amused look. "It seems Jebediah is not the only romantic among us."

Adam picks it right up, rolling poetry out from his huge chest like melodic thunder: "Thy winds, thy wide grey skies! Thy mists, that roll and rise! Ah," he says, halting in the middle of his recitation, "but it is far from autumn. We must praise the summer." He considers. "Now the rich cherry, whose sleek wood, and top with silver petals traced; has spilt from out that cunning lid, all in an innocent green round, those melting rubies which it hid." He has an excellent voice for poetry, it must be said.

In response to Halgrim's look, he inclines his head a little, acknowledging. "Nature brings me joy. When all else mortal has passed away, she remains to comfort me." He looks out over the stream as well. "My hope is that she may do the same for you."

"Summer," Halgrim says, and tilts his head. He rolls the squashberry twig between his fingers, gaze growing more distant, and begins to recite, in German. His accent is even lighter than it is in English; he's spent plenty of time around native speakers. And this poem in particular he's probably heard recited numerous times, the way he says it. "Des Sommers Wochen standen still, es stieg der Bäume Blut; jetzt fühlst du, daß es fallen will in den, der alles tut." He pauses, expression clouding, and stares out into the trees. "Du glaubtest schon erkannt die Kraft, als du die Frucht erfaßt, jetzt wird sie wieder rätselhaft, und du bist wieder Gast." Rilke, and a poem about far more than just summer.

"Der Sommer war so wie dein Haus, drin weißt du alles stehn – jetzt mußt du in dein Herz hinaus wie in die—" Halgrim stops and shakes his head, smiling with regret. He clears his throat. "I hope so too," he says. "Eventually." He throws the twig into the stream and sighs. The moment isn't entirely ruined, though; he says, "Dare I ask if you've written any of your own?" He's not teasing, or joking. The question is entirely sincere.

"That was a lament, not praise," Adam says, but without censure. He crouches down next to Halgrim, which puts them at near the same height. "A fine poem." He knows Halgrim selected it for a reason, but he is kind enough not to say so.

"When I was born," he says, settling in to tell a story, "I was as a human infant in my brain and my heart. The infant knows nothing of time. It only knows need, and the now. When it hungers and is denied the breast, it rages and wails. So too did I. Because my father gave me nothing, I thought then there was nothing. That then every season was to be a season of hunger, never to be filled. That is why I killed. If I was always to be empty, so too would he."

Talking about Frankenstein always makes him broody, but here in the beauty of the summer forest, he seems to be able to stay afloat on the vast dark ocean of his heart. "As the years passed, I saw that hunger and need had their season, and that they would go in their time. And return. Always return. And always go. Yours is a season of hunger, my friend, and I am sorry for it. I would lift the burden from you if I could. The time will come, though. A time when hunger eases."

Adam glances at Halgrim, raising one eyebrow. "I live. My life is my poetry."

Halgrim doesn't immediately look at Adam as he approaches; he keeps staring out into the gathering darkness of the woods. He says, "Can it not be both?" and it's not just academic curiosity. He wants (needs) there to be a possibility of holding the good memories with horrible reality of now which has poisoned them and made them a source of pain, and have it make some kind of sense. But that's the real folly, because not everything makes sense, particularly not rage-fueled spirits bound to amulents locked in stone boxes. It's a difficult thing for someone over two decades into an academic career to tolerate.

He gives Adam a sideways glance when Adam reveals this much of his history, and though Halgrim goes back to focusing on the trees, his expressions indicate he's listening closely. When Adam finishes, Halgrim nods and rubs at his eyes. "That's a change of seasons which can't come soon enough," he says. He laughs quietly, thinking of, unfortunately, another lament. Two, actually, one of which he murmurs a fragment of under his breath. "What shall I do with the joy in me." Why do poets write so many lamentations?

"I think I only lament summer for now," Halgrim admits. "As you say, maybe autumn will be better." He turns to face Adam, and says, "Thank you. You're more generous with me than you have any reason to be." He raises an eyebrow of his own. "And I believe that's an admission that you *do* write poetry."

"Autumn may not come for years." Adam turns his great awful head to look into Halgrim's eyes. The weight of centuries is in that look. "It will come. Late or soon. It will come. There will be a day you wake up and think only of the beauty of the morning. I promise you that.

In a way, you are free now." Adam straightens up, unhooking his cloak and rolling it into a tight bundle. "The worst has happened. Yet you live." With a glance that's undeniably fond down at Halgrim, he smiles. "Everything you witness about me is my poetry." He steps into the stream to cross it, without so much as a flinch.

"Has it, though," Halgrim wonders, watching Adam cross the stream. He shakes himself out, willing the melancholy to leave them behind, and heads into the water in Adam's wake. It's shallow, with a pebbly, rocky bottom that's tricky even with sturdy hiking boots like Halgrim's. Frogs clamber away from them when they emerge on the opposite bank, annoyed by the interruption in their evening feeding; clouds of insects whirl next to the bushes.

"I think there's a clearing up there," Halgrim says, gesturing to a shift in the failing light between the trees some distance ahead. Beyond a dense thicket they find a grove of red oak with a modest gap in the midst of it. At the center of the clearing is a skeleton, half-buired in rocks, grass, and cucumber root. Deer, by the shape and size of it, though someone came along at some point and sawed off the antlers. The sight of those uneven stumps catches Halgrim's eye, and he steps into the opening, lured by the unmistakble sign of humanity above the empty skull staring up into the darkening sky. He scans the oaks and settles on one with a stout bough some fifteen feet above.

"This should work," he says, and shoulders off his pack. Out comes the heavy length of rope and dark gray, woolen blanket. He shrugs off his light plaid and yanks his undershirt over his head, saying "I can't imagine you mind, but I've no intention of destroying perfectly good clothes when there's no need."

Adam investigates the skeleton as he does all things, crouching over it and tracing one of the rib bones with a light touch. Looking up at Halgrim, he raises his eyebrows curiously, then— "Ah. No, you imagine correctly. The human anatomy holds no mysteries for me." How could it, when he's literally made of other people's anatomy. Still, he looks over Halgrim's with interest that's completely nonsexual. "You are well made, my friend. I have heard many of the young people in town have tried to win your hand, or at least one of your nights."

Halgrim grunts, both at the compliment and at his predicament. Certainly for his age and profession he's fitter than most, but there is one thing out of place: the long, jagged, sternal scar from shoulder to lower ribcage, which the amulet sits in the center of. His boots and socks go the way of his shirt and flannel, as do his pants and undershorts. "Their older siblings are a better match, is what I keep telling them. There's even one or two which might work. Of course," he taps the scar, "this would also make for an awkward conversation, so maybe it's for the best I not bother."

He stuffs everything into the pack, zips and ties it tightly, and hoists it into the tree with practiced ease. It's been over a year since he's done this, but you wouldn't know it the way he ties off the rope and stands back to survey the bag's placement. "That ought to keep them off it."

Adam stashes his cloak in the crook of a branch. He's easily tall enough that he just reaches up and puts it there. No food or other supplies for him; he only eats roots and fruit in the way of sustenance. Frankenstein made him too well, as he sometimes says. "*Och nu? Vad ska vi se?*" In Swedish he asks, what now? What will he get to see?

Halgrim gazes overhead, sighs, and takes up the wool blanket. "I tried this with Strange," he explains in Swedish as he lays it out so he'll have something to kneel on. "And it worked. Eventually." He winces, shifting until he can find a position which doesn't put stones directly under his knees. Settled, he takes a few breaths, letting the cool twilight air of the forest remind him of that cold hillside in Sweden.

After a moment he begins reciting something under his breath. "The world stands out on either side, no wider than the heart is wide. Above the world is stretched the sky, no higher than the soul is high." The poem relaxes him; it's not morose, like the others. "The heart can push the sea and land, farther away on either hand. The soul can split the sky in two, and let the face…of…" He slows to a stop, sighs like a man utterly exhauisted. Bright yellow floods his irises, and he whispers, "Come on then," and the shift takes him.

It's so much faster than Adam as ever seen; one moment there's a man kneeling on a bedroll, and the next, there's a great mismatched beast, crouched over a length of wool. For several seconds the Fjorskar stays like that, nose and ears working as it takes in these new surroundings. Its yellow eyes shine bright and fierce in the gloom, casting stark shadows on the deer skeleton. Birdcalls and animal sounds which had been close diminish and cease; they resume at a more appropriate distance.

There's no stink of the city, no sound of omnipresent humanity. It isn't the forests of Sweden that the world shaper took it to, but neither is there a wall to hem it in. This is as free as it's been since being trapped in a burial mound.

Adam sinks to his heels to watch, enraptured. Taking in every motion, every syllable, with an intensity that mimics falling in love. "Let the face of God shine through," he murmurs, as Halgrim transforms. Rising, he bows with an elegant little flourish of his creepily long arms. "Torn-Heart. My friend, if you will count me so." Almost no other sound close by, except for the summer breeze making the trees whisper to each other.

Fjorskar's eyes snap to Adam when he speaks. Could he have surprised it? Maybe, though more likely it had noted his presence via scent and forgotten while taking in its surroundings. It gets up, ignoring the wool blanket, and moves to the deer skeleton, tracing the stumps where the antlers were taken. Its lip curls in irritation, and it turns to Adam. "Friend," it repeats, like it's trying out the word. It stares at him, eyes fierce and savage, huffs a breath, and jerks its head out towards the trees. Without another word, it bolts out of the clearing and into the forest, barrelling between the trees with an abandon something so large shouldn't be capable of.

Adam launches after the beast, massive body catapulting into motion with a swiftness that defies all physics. So rare, to be able to move so free! No cramped city, no fragile mortals, only monsters in all their monstrosity. This sunny forest, while not the forests of their youths, has its own ways to welcome them home. Leaf litter and dirt flies from under Adam's boots as he races after Fjorskar, his horrible face alight.

The oaks and maples and birch fly by, fading into a dark blur as night falls; this is not a problem for the beast, though, whose eyes were made to see in the darkness, and whose nose and ears work just as well besides. Presently its course becomes less random and more directed, and it slows from a headlong pace to a more directed lope. It's caught the scent of something interesting, and is following it on the night wind, which stirs the trees overhead now and again.

Adam is as fast as a good horse, and much more nimble in this environment. The beast is faster than he is, but he has no trouble keeping it in sight—he sees well in the dark, too, if not as well. He catches up, slowing to the pace Fjorskar sets, loping alongside him as if he was a wolf himself. He doesn't speak; instead he watches, looking to the beast as if it's the huntsmaster.

Fjorskar spares a sideways glance at Adam, and directs them further, alongside a ravine and down the gentle slope of a valley at one end. The moon's not up yet, though her diffuse light crowns the horizon, leaving the landscape a suggestion of gray and blue with undertones of red from the maples and oaks.

The beast slows further, and finally stops. They're approaching a meadow in the valley, and in that meadow, is a handful of resting moose; a large, older buck, standing apart from a younger one in his prime, and further still, two cows and their offspring. They've gathered around a pond to drink.

Adam crouches at the creature's side, fingertips on the cool ground as if it was as natural to him to go on four legs as it is to the beast. Hiding in the soft shadows of the trees, he considers the moose, then meets Fjorskar's yellow eye. Still no speech. Speech is for humankind and those pretending.

The beast waits, and when the older buck lowers its head begins to move, shifting through the trees to bring itself to the closest position still under cover. It waits there, until the old moose raises his head again.

It surges out of the trees, across the grass, and before the buck can even react slices its claws across the underside of the moose's neck, passing just in front of its face and around the other side in the process. The other moose all panic and flee, bellowing as they go. The old patriarch groans and sinks to its knees, bleeding heavily; Fjorskar reaches down and guides its head to the grass, and the buck's eyes slide shut.

Adam follows more slowly. There's blood everywhere. He touches the bull's head, as heavy and mighty as his own, a silent thanks for giving its life. That moose had no idea there was something as big and mean as itself roaming around. Adam lifts his gaze to the trees and their surroundings, out of long-established caution, expecting Fjorskar to be busy over his kill.

Fjorskar is, indeed, quite busy, though there's an notable pause in the proceedings, and it snarls to get Adam's attention. It's placed something for himan organ, probably the liveron the moose's broad shoulder, and gone on about its business. Around the edges of the meadow, raccoons have begun to gather, watching the two of them with fascination.

Finally, Adam says something. "Thank you," he says, grave and honest. He even goes so far as to take a ritual nibble, swallowing a bite of smooth bitter flesh. Then he gathers some leaves and grass to make a bed, takes the slippery liver and lays it down neatly.

The beast doesn't seem to mind how Adam handles his share; it was given, it's his to do with. Its some time in eating, and the raccoons watch with growing agitation, because Adam is there and while he's not human, he smells similar, in a way Fjorkar doesn't.

Once it's had its fill, the beast leaves off the moose and goes to the pond. It spends some time washing the remains of its meal off, then plunges in, swimming through the water with a grace belonging to some other creature entirely. It hauls itself out near Adam, shaking the water off in a huge shower, and considers him. "Why," it says, finally.

Adam washes his bloody hands and face, as well. Then Fjorskar helps him with a quick shower, which he takes in good humor, merely flicking his damp hair back behind him. He sits again, crosslegged now, watching the raccoons not able to decide if they want to risk him. "You are not a being for cities. Concrete and metal were never made to hold you. Yet you dwell in a man, a man who has a need for his own kind, his own world. A world with whom you, my friend, are incompatible. You and he are one, but should his needs always come before your own? Would not the situation be more harmonious if you, too, were permitted to have what you crave?"

He turns his head to the beast. "And he is my friend," he adds, calm. "His heart is as torn as your own. If I can do aught to help him live through what you've done, I will."

"What. I've. Done," Fjorskar repeats. It bristles, the mantle of feathers rising. "Is nothing. Compared to what," it waves an arm, encompassing the whole of humanity, "*they*. Have done." It growls, the claws on one hand digging into the ground. "Slaughtered my kin. Fouled the water. Abandonned the sacred ways. Warped the magic of the world." It barks, pants, regains its composure. "I have seen. What they do. It is nothing. To compare." It moves away from Adam, a handful of steps, and stops. "This host. It took me. To a world shaper." That's an accusation if ever there was one. Fjorskar's ears lay back, and it finally gives voice to a concern. "Will it. Try. To cut itself out. Of me."

"So they have," Adam murmurs. "They have no love for you, or I, or the world they live in. And yet, here we sit, at their mercy. You will never kill them all, or even the slimmest fraction of them. Glut and feast as you will, you can never devour them away. They will tear you down. In your time, perhaps you might have done. Not now. Not ever again." In his voice is regretful truth. "Englishmen and Christians have polluted all the world. Yours. Mine. That of every unfortunate they have encountered in their lust for rape. And we must live with them, or die at their hands."

And the world-shaper is one of those Englishmen. Adam does not apologize. "Perhaps. I do not know the ways of it. If the natural world has taught me anything, though, it has taught me that two halves do not survive when divided. I doubt you can be separated from he without killing him and sending you back to sleep."

Leaning back on his hands, Adam looks up at the dark rustling branches above them, parted by the meadow as if a lake of stars had leaves for its shores. Perfectly relaxed, perfectly calm, he goes on. "You wish to be free of him. That is understandable, and yet it is not your nature. If you could survive on your own, you would do it, and not need to borrow another's body. So that is your choice. Live with him, or sleep forever, without the sweet world for the tasting. I say this to you because I alone can survive your ire. If ire you have, come settle it with me now."

Fjorskar listens to all of this with a frustration that churns and ripples but never quite seems to boil over. It comes close, though, when Adam talks about how the humanity of now, which is so much worse than the humanity which defeated and locked it away, it to be lived with.

It settles, though, as Adam goes on, a sort of tired resignation tempering its anger. "Cannot. Be free." It heaves a sigh, shakes its heavy head. "Nothing given. For what was taken." It taps the gleaming stone; the rising moon's wave light makes the metallic inclusions flicker. "Forever bound. To a host." It narrows its eyes at Adam. "Before. Host would." It gestures vaguely. "Succumb. The body. Belonged. To me. This one refuses." Its lip curls; this is a frustrating state of affairs, that the beast be expected to share.

Still, it has no ire to settle with Adam. Maybe it just needed to voice this untenable 'sharing' situation to someone.

Adam lifts an eyebrow, nothing more. Holding that inhuman, immortal stillness, like he didn't expect to get leapt on and savaged, not in the least. "Ah. I did not realize." Halgrim is refusing to give in to his lodger. That cheers Adam's cold heart more than a bottle of rum. Politely, he doesn't say so. He's very, very curious and wants to ask the creature more about how it's summoned while it's in a chatty mood, but he refrains. The Sorcerer Supreme is the more appropriate party to ask those questions.

He asks another one. One he's equipped to handle on his own.

"What is it you desire?"

The beast's eyes narrow. Prisoners recently freed from incarceration don't trust easily. It gets up and moves back to the slain moose, considering its slowly cooling body. "Before. They put me. In the cage." It growls, slashes at the moose's antlers in frustration. Fragments fall to the ground. "All I wanted. Was. To kill them. All of them. For how. I was made." It braces itself, like it's planning to repeat the motion, but this time it raises its head and *howls*. It's not just a wolf's howl; there are four voices to hear, all of them bearing their share of grief and rage, a high as it is deep. It sends the pond's surface to shuddering, and in the forest, numerous animals flee in response. It goes on for several seconds, and then the beast stops, panting.

Presently, it crouches down in front of the moose. "I would have. All of them. *All*. If I had learned. Enough. Of the sacred ways." It hangs its head. "So she killed. That host. Cut out the words. Buried me. In the earth. In the dark." it flashes its teeth and growls. "And when. I came out. All. *All* I wanted. Was to kill them. So I *did*." It digs its claws into the ground. "But, the host. Did not. Let go. I sink into the dark. And fight. Back out. This, goes on." It tears out the earth it's taken hold of, throwing the grass and dirt into the distance with a barking snarl. "I am trapped. Still. Endless."

Adam's lips pull back from his teeth. The rage and grief in Fjorskar's voice is like his own. "Oh yes. Yes, I know what it is like to be made." He stands, restless now. "I too was made from parts. Made by a man whose ambition was only for himself, never for the thing he made except as a prize, a trophy he could display as proof of his genius." Looking at the beast with those white eyes, he rumbles, "You and I are alike in this way. Yes?"

Fjorskar turns to face Adam, feathers ruffling. It growls furious agreement. "They take. And take. They do not *give*." It barks the last word. "They violate. The contract. Between spirit. And flesh." It huffs out a breath and shakes itself out, disgusted by the idea of anything being so out of tune. "You ask. What I want." It tilts its head. "To be free. Of pain. To heal. To stop the cycle. To destroy the cage."

Adam's face is fierce, tensed up under the weight of his emotional storm. And yet….and yet. His expression softens, and he looks at the chimerical creature. He doesn't dare touch Fjorskar — he'd pull back a stump, and good hands aren't easy to find. But his glance is compassionate. Perhaps even fond. "We are brothers, you and I. To heal—yes. To be free of the pain."

"Siblings." The correction comes sharp and insistent. Its ears pin back, teeth flash in the strengthening moonlight. It doesn't deny the connection, however. It studies him, eyes scanning the uneven seams, the misshapen parts. It's know, of course, that he's not 'human' in the manner of those it hates, but only now does it seem to truly appreciate the symmetry of their situations. "How. Do we heal. From this."

Adam takes the correction with grace, dipping his head. "Siblings." He falls quiet. "The path is a troublesome one," he says, after a time. "One to whose end I have not travelled. Yet the traveling itself holds value." He gazes over the meadow, its grasses becoming silvered by moonlight. "Two things we must do. We must accept ourselves. And we must accept others."

Fjorskar grunts, shakes its head. 'Accepting' others sounds like sharing, and hasn't it shared enough? Had enough taken? What more must it give.

Of course, it knows the answer to that, because that's how the sacred ways have always worked. Give, with no expectation of return, knowing that this is how true becoming happens. Nothing is made without risk. It would help if it was less painful, though.

The beast snarls softly. "Accept," it says, trying the word out. "I already. Accept. This. But the host." Its lip writhes.

"Yes. I know." Adam says it gently. "He has not. That, I attempt to help him do. He does not understand your nature. I will stand friend to you both. To him, I will tell your truth. For you, I will bring you out so we may hunt the wild places. So we may, for a little while, forget what we must do and embrace only what we are."

The beast snarls, snaps its jaws. "Not accept *host*," Fjorskar says. "This." It runs one hand over a long arm, then the other. "This, shape. Host." It sneers, growls out, "Human," and if a beast's voice can convey disgust its surely does. This is probably explanation enough.

Of course, it's a pointless outburst, because Adam is correct. The give and take must happen on both sides. The world is unfair in its fairness. It tries to think of a way to express that in the clunky, awkward, stupid language used in this age, but—

Fjorskar's ears go back and it lifts its nose, smelling intently. It turns, ears forward now, and growls. "No," it barks, and like that, it's bolting across the valley at top speed.

That makes Adam's eyebrows go up again. "I apologize. Yes. He is human." Which must mean the creature's former hosts were *not*. Isn't that interesting.

And then the beast is bolting. Adam doesn't think, he just reacts, launching into a run after Fjorskar. No time to ask, no time to do anything except scatter fallen leaves in his wake.

Little deters Fjorskar; its focus is singular, its fury born of some new desparation. Whatever it's smelled and heard, it can't get to it fast enough. They move up out of the valley, along the edge of the ravine, then turn into the oaks and maples that crowd along it. Gradually they move into older growth, the trees becoming taller evergreens, spruce and pine, with heavy layers of fallen branches, brush, and fern beneath them.

It starts to slow when they approach a clearing against a low rise, and as they draw near enough to see between the trees the beast stops, ears forward, eyes wide and brilliant in the dark, nose working. There are voices ahead, and light—multiple fires, or possibly torches, by the way overlapping dance of orange and yellow light.

Adam races after the great beast, never slowing, never tiring. When he finally catches him, again he doesn't ask questions. He just follows its lead, looking at the clearing with its fire and voices. Even in thick growth, he's near-silent, well practiced at moving in such terrain.

The beast slinks forward, making no sound as it goes, its ears and feathers and pinned flat to its body. It's not hard to sneak up on humans, which is what they're facing.

The light is, in fact, coming from a set of torches. They've been placed in a rough, seven-pointed shape around a winding, circular pattern of bones beaten into the ground. All manner of bones form the shape; animal and human, young and old, large and small. Four figures in pale gray, hooded cloaks stand at meeting points of the bone pattern; they're murmuring a meandering, melodic chant or prayer that gives the distinct sense it's rising to something. Each has a long carving knife in their hands.

At the center of the bone pattern is a boulder, just large enough to be an altar, and tied to that, face down and sobbing, is a young man. He's long limbed and lean, with olive toned skin and dusty blond hair; probably not quite twenty. He's begging for his life, which none of the cloaked figures seem to be concerned with. He's clothed save for a shirt, and a large sigil in black coal and something sticky adorns his back; it seems to be the portion of the pattern hidden by the boulder.

Adam snarls, a gutteral roar of a sound in his cavernous chest. He barrels out from the undergrowth like the fist of a God he doesn't believe in, charging straight for the cultist nearest to him. Slams into them and just runs them the hell over like a Mack truck. Turning, he sweeps his furious, imperious gaze across the rest of them and bellows, a demon elk in heat. His long hair whips around him, a glossy black cape. He roars. "DOWN!"

All four of the cultist's startle as Adam hurtles into the clearing, their prayer stuttering to a halt. Fjorskar follows in behind him, rushing the cultist opposite the one he's attacked. Adam strikes his target and they crumple like a doll, managing only one cry before they succumb, maybe to simple unconsciousness, but more likely to death. The beast tears out her victim's throat before they can bring up their knife, sending blood everywhere.

The young man on the rock tries to turn his head to see what's going on, shouting in — Greek? yes, it's Greek, maybe a prayer of his own — but he can't quite get Adam or the beast into his view. He's alternatively praying to God and asking the new arrivals to save him, hoping that the Venn Diagram of these requests contains his survival.

Of the other two cultists, one recovers composure right away; the other, whose hood falls back to reveal a young, pale man with blotchy skin and dark hair, darts behind the stolid one, cowering almost. He's trying to stammer out something—a spell, it sounds like, a simple cantrip of protection, but shock and fear prevents the words from coming out correct, and nothing really happens.

The upright figure lowers its hood, revealing a woman in her early thirties, with chalk-white, blue-tinted skin, grey and white hair, and…gills. They're lying shut against her neck, but there's no mistaking what they are. Her eyes are a pale, watery blue, with veins of red standing out in her sclera, and her features are severe in the extreme; a narrow, long nose in an angular face, and deep-set, almost sunken eyes. She raises her chin at Adam, taking a lowered stance with her knife in a reversed grip. Now that her hands are more visible, he can see her nails have been filed down to cruel claws. "What business does a golem and a dog have in our affairs?" she says; her voice is low and husky, and sounds like she doesn't use it often.

Adam has been called a lot worse. 'Golem' is practically polite. "Witch!" He thunders the word at the woman. Nine feet tall, hideous, and pissed off, he's a sight that could turn the bravest woman's knees to water. "Your foulness is unwelcome here!"

Fjorskar's snarling fills the clearing, a constant chorus to Adam's accusation. The woman's subjugate cowers, covering his head as if it would block out what's happening. She takes in the two of them, though; there's an icy, knotted resilience to her, the kind that comes from too much time spent among the uglier powers of the deep earth. "Foulness is everywhere, child of man. Humanity has destroyed its mother and father's gifts, and used them to monstrous ends." She raises an ash-gray brow, takes in the beast with a glance. "But I doubt I need to tell either of you that."

The beast's feathers stand on end, making it look impossibly huge. Yet it doesn't lunge for this woman, this priestess of things that live far below; it waits, blazing yellow eyes flicking to Adam.

That hits one of Adam's borrowed nerves; he bares his teeth at the woman, clenching his huge fists. "Yet you add to their crimes! Oceans of their blood have soaked the earth, and you raise your knife to pour yet more!" He kicks apart bones, scattering the carefully-laid pattern. "The very soil stinks of their excess, and you! YOU! You would open the spigot yet wider!"

"Add? I open the spigot to *cleanse* what has been done, make way for what c — " When Adam kicks the first bone, the priestess' hand clenches on the handle of her knife. Her voice drops an octave. "You disrespect them," she says, her voice wavering with fury. "The Masters Below won't tolerate this, how *dare* you trample th — "

Fjorskar launches forward from Adam's side, apparently done with this tirade, and the priests raises her knife at the last possible moment. The collision of the beast's horns against an invisible barrier rings out like heavy bell, sending the beast skittering to one side and shaking its head while the priestess tries to abosorb the shockwave off the barrier. It flares and lenses like a soap bubble, and she's apparently unable to; the barrier fragments and unravels in a shimmer of pale, ghostly light.

Adam follows Fjorskar in so smooth it seems planned. He lunges for the witch, following up and reaching for her throat. The barrier shatters just in time to let him in and he plucks her up as if she's a flower. Pulls her off her feet and growls, "Tell me why I should not snap your neck."

The priestess coughs against Adam's massive hand, not bothering to pry at his fingers. There would be no point; her strengths aren't physical. She laughs, though which him holding her neck like this, it's more of a cough. "My masters will welcome me, with open arms. My life is the finest sacrifice I can offer them — to die in their service, is," her eyes widen a fraction, the only warning, "divine."

What she lacks in strength she makes up for in speed: the priestess raises the bone-handled knife to slice at Adam's arm, the blade wavering and lily black with a spell. But whatever she'd intended—to sever his arm, perhaps? — it never comes to fruition; the beast's jaws close over her elbow in a decisive bite, severing her forearm and sending the blade clattering to the winding bone sigil. The priestess screams, a howling wail that pierces the ears, and thrashes in Adam's grip.

The subjugate behind the priestess wimpers and starts crawling away, hopeful its mistress' death is a sufficient sacrifice to these angry forest gods.

Adam doesn't even flinch when Fjorskar comes in to chomp off the woman's arm. Okay, he flinches a little. Hardly counts.

"Then," he snarls, voice guttural. "Die for them."

His hand crushes closed around her neck. *Crack*.

Adam drops her, and with two enormous strides is over at the last cultist. This poor fellow he lifts by the scruff of his robe. "YOU." He shakes him, to make sure he's got his attention. "I have a task, for *you*."

The young man on the rock is still trembling and praying. He might not even be aware what's happened, he's so sunk into his prayers.

The cultist yelps as Adam grabs him. "Please — please, don't — I'm just an novice, I haven't even taken my proper vows, I — I'm not sworn to Them." His accent is mid-Atlantic of some variety.

Fjorskar, less interested with what Adam has planned for the final cultist, is inspecting the knife on the ground. It pokes at the handle with one claw, wary, and as the blade moves it leaves deep scores in the sigil bones and the earth around them. With a grunt it gets to its feet, finds a suitable rock, and smashes the knife. There's an audible 'crack', and the smell of charred flesh and something worse fills the air. The beast snarls, leaves the blade under that rock, and finds another. It repeats this process three more times, with each knife dropped by a cultist, though their destructions aren't heralded by a similar noise or smell.

Adam growls, an earthquake in his chest. "*Silence*." He lifts the guy to his eye level, dangling him a good yard above the ground. "You will go back to your masters and tell them their kind are no longer permitted here. You will tell them they will obey us, or we will send them to their rewards." Hand opening, he drops him to the dirt. Splat. Leans over him, looming. "You will tell them that the Monster bids you say these things."

The man cries out as he lands on the ground, cradling his wrist. It's probably broken, though he (wisely) doesn't complain about it. In a small, thin voice, he says, "C — can I — s-send them a…message? If they — if I go there, and s-say that, they'll—"

Fjorskar is at Adam's side in a second, crossing the winding bone spiral in a single leap and snarling furiously at the novice. He screams and tries to hide behind the arms of his robes. "Tell them," it bellows, furious. The young man on the rock wimpers, turns his head away from the proceedings as far as he can. "Tell them. If I sense them. Ever. Again. I will leave. Nothing. I will remove you. From the mother's sight. My teeth will find your throats. You will violate the father's ways. No more. Never." The beast's body heaves with anger. It shakes its head, snorting, waiting.

The novice sobs; his body shakes with the suggestion of a nod. "O…okay." He slowly climbs to his feet, and, thinking better of looking back, tugs a flashlight out from under his robes and flees into the woods.

Adam watches the fool child stumble away. Rigidly upright, great head thrust forward, fists at his hips. He is an unyielding wall of stitched-together flesh and righteous fury. At this moment there's no compassion in him, nothing humane. Only a flame of justice. The soft leafshadows and moonlight dapple him, casting gentle beauty over his awful features.

Then, he turns to the victim. "You are safe now," he tells him, in modern Greek.

The sandy-haired young man startles when Adam addresses him; it's hard to say if Adam's use of his first language is a comfort or an added horror. Until Fjorskar begins removing the ropes that hold him, he just stares, too terrified to say anything. He gasps in surprise when his bindings go slack, and scrambles up from the rock, blinking with huge, dark eyes overfull with tears. He glances at Fjorskar and shrinks away. "Y-you—you're…" He sniffs, wipes at his face. "Are y-you the one from the…book? The movies? About…" He squints; the Swiss name comes hard. "The scientist? Frankenstein?"

Fjorskar snalrs softly at his questions. It had expected the sacrifice to flee as well, yet here he stands, interrogating them. It's offended by the presumption, but doesn't act to scare him off. Not just yet.

Adam dips his head, glossy hair sliding over his shoulder. "Those movies are parodies of me. But, yes. I am the unwanted child of Frankenstein. The Monster, I am called, and the Monster I am." He considers the situation; the guy is terrified, it's the middle of the night, and they're in unmarked forest. "Do you require assistance? I will bring you to the road if you need."

The young man stares at Adam in fascination. "Oh." He rubs his arms. "Th-thank you. For…saving me. I — " He sniffs, forces back more tears. "Anyways. Thanks." He flicks a nervous glance at the beast, then back to Adam. "I…I know where the trail-l is. I come up here all the time, on break." He shudders; that's probably not going to be the case anymore. "I'll, be okay. That guy went in the other direction anyways. So…I shouldn't run into him." Gripping his forearms across his chest, he begins to pick his way off the bone sigil, making faces at it and even pausing to kick a bone loosed by Adam as he goes. At the edge of the trees he steps onto a thin game trail, looks back over his shoulder one more time at his monstrous saviors, and disappears into the night.

Fjorskar grunts. "He will. Tell. Others." It doesn't wait for Adam to respond to that, just begins ripping the bones out of the ground, smashing and scattering them with ruthless efficiency.

"He will, and that's in our favor. The more is known about these warlocks, the less shadow they have in which to hide." Adam helps, crunching the bones under his heel. "…Ah, did you mean he will talk about us? Well, I can hardly be more famous. As for you, all of New York talks about you already."

He looks at the bodies with grim distaste. Then begins to gather wood, piling it in the middle of the ruined bone pattern.

Fjorskar snorts and growls a reply. While Adam gathers wood it keeps ripping out the bones, movements becoming more frenzied and angry, until it smashes a particularly large bone in frustration. "Hunted. Again," it barks. "Always." It huffs, leaves off to join Adam in creating a proper pyre. It piles the bodies together, lips writhing with distaste when it handles the priestess, tosses dry grass and kindling on them.

Adam crouches to begin a fire, spinning a length of wood down into a plank he's split with a stone. He's quite practiced at it and very quickly has an ember, which he picks up to nurse into a flame. "We have strength in numbers, my friend," he murmurs, to his handful of grass and smoke. "That is why we have the Metropolis. One of us alone may be hunted. A city of us cannot be dared. A hard lesson for me to learn. The good doctor is insistent."

He tucks the flame into the base of the pyre, where it catches and begins to eat up the wood. Standing, he regards the crackling wood and burning bodies, frowning, long, long arms crossed on his massive chest.

"Fine work, my sibling," he says to the Fjorskar.

Fjorskar watches Adam make the fire with the intense interest of a creature filing away future information. It considers him as he speaks, grunting an acknowledgment of his complement, and looks into the fire. "Strength. As. Pack. herd." It rubs a hand over its face. "Have not. Had those. Since." It growls, voice dropping into a guttural noise. "Sundering — birth. The *cage*." It shudders, barks at the fire, turns away from it. "Difficult, to. Remember. Who — what, I was. She — " it runs a clawed hand along each long arm, " — was me. But am I…still her."

Adam looks at the beast, eyebrows up, curious. "Then, I should call you packmate. Pack-sister. Come. Let us go from here." He turns his back on the pyre and its sizzling human fuel, striding away into the night forest. "You may remember in time. Or you may not. Either way, I honor you."

Fjorskar grunts. "Pack…sister," she agrees, and turns to follow Adam. In a few bounding strides she's in front of him, heading back towards the clearing where she woke, though her route meanders and isn't driven by rage or hunger now. She goes back to the valley where she took the moose; coyotes and raccoons have come to work on the remains (she doesn't contest them, and even gives them a wide bearth so as not to frighten them, though they all watch the pair with eyes flaring in the moonlight). She follows the river, pausing to scoop out a fish for each of them; hers she swallows whole.

Once they're close to the clearing, she slows, and makes the rest of her way there at an ungainly walk, stopping to collect wood. She explains to Adam, "Host, will. Be cold. Weak." There's a note of judgment in her voice, though not as much as previously.

Adam lets the beast take the lead, with some amusement. She acts like the matriarch of a wolf pack. No matter to him; he is content to play the role of a brother. "I shall care for him." As they go, Adam gathers wood, too, and keeps his fish for Halgrim. "He is only human, my sister. We are far tougher than he." When they arrive, he crouches to make another fire, but pauses, studying Fjorskar. "Thank you. It's so good to run with you."

The beast carries herself like a pack matriarch, unthinkingly so. Or at least, she's trying to; caught between the desire for safety in numbers and the ability to be the master of her own destiny for the first time in a thousand years, she's unsure how to properly proceed, or if there's even a correct way to. But as Adam joines her in her endeavors, she begins to accept the uncertainy of her situation.

"Human," she mutters, still annoyed by this unavoidable fact. She unceremoniously drops her collection of wood in a jumbled mass on the clearest spot of ground she can find, next to the deer skeleton. "Good. Yes. To run. To *hunt*. Do this, more — tell. The host." She settles down on the blanket, fixes Adam with one gleaming yellow eye. "Thank. You." She snorts with the effort of saying this, curls up more tightly, and shuts her eyes. A handful of long slow breathes in, out, and the beast shape shivers and reforms, leaving Halgrim in its place, hair and body damp with sweat.

Adam has the fire going and wild tubers roasting in it when Halgrim arrives. He rises from scaling the fish to unfurl his cloak, shake the leaves and grass from it, and wrap it around Halgrim, picking him up a moment so he can get him really cocooned. "Ah, there you are. How do you feel?" He parks him by the fire.

Halgrim's eyes flutter open, and he gasps in surprise, shivering as the combination of a damp body and head of hair meet the cold night. He makes no complaint about being wrapped up in the cloak. "Gods' balls," he says through chattering teeth. Any indignity he might feel at being carried over to the fire like a frail child takes a back seat to getting warm. He rubs at his chest under the cloak, whispering, "Th-thank you." It takes him a moment to get his bearings and catch his breath. He blinks at the sizzling tubers, at Adam. "I'm — fine." He runs a hand through his hair to get it out of his face. "Better. I think. How, ah — " He wipes the sweat from his face. "How was it?"

"Wonderful," Adam says, unexpectedly soft, and utterly sincere. However, he makes the choice not to tell Hal that they murdered some cultists. It'd only upset him. Getting Halgrim settled, he goes back to scaling the fish, having tossed its guts a ways away, another gift for whatever scavengers of the night care to take advantage. He threads it onto a peeled stick and props it up over the fire. Then he lowers Halgrim's supplies so he can fetch water. "I have much to tell you about your other face."

The food preparations relax Halgrim, and he focuses on Adam as he goes about them. He makes no move to get dressed just yet; there's a certain comfort to sitting by a fire, wrapped in nothing but a friend's overly huge cloak. "Like what." He seems like he's bracing himself for whatever Adam has to say, maybe trying not to imagine the worst but unable to avoid doing so.

The cloak smells like wool and leaves and Adam's particular cool, spicy scent. Like Frankenstein used parts that were embalmed in herbs, the old way.

He gives Halgrim a cup of water, with a few crushed mint leaves in it. Adam apparently knows how to get the finer things in life out of a camping trip. He'd fit in well on a dig. "She is a female power, and a leader. We hunted. She portioned out the kill, like a matriarch should. She misses having a pack, or a herd, or a flock. Her anger…" Adam trails off, sitting crosslegged. He concentrates on turning the stick so the fish roasts evenly. When he speaks again, his voice is emotional. "Is like mine. The anger of things created by selfish men."

Halgrim accepts the trink and takes a healthy gulp. The mint makes the drink refreshing without chilling him, and he murmurs a thank you. Everything Adam says he takes in with a fragile expression that's wavering on the verge of something. "Is that why she," he looks down at the drink in his hand, "when I found, the chest and took the amulet. Is that why she…" He can't bring himself to actually say it. "Because she was in pain?"

"She was in pain," Adam murmurs. "I was in pain. That is why I murdered Frankenstein's family. His little brother. His closest friend. His bride. Eventually, he died of pursuing me, so although my hand did not slay him, the fault still lies with me. And yet, was my pain diminished, by all this blood? No. When at last he died…" he closes his eyes. "I wept. I did not know I could weep for him, after hating him for so long. Not only for him. For the innocents I killed. My own innocence was lost, because of my pain and my hatred."

For a time he is silent, tending to the food, gazing into the fire. When it's done, he gets Halgrim's camp plate out and piles the fish and a couple tubers on it, passes it over. For himself he just breaks a tuber open and eats it without care for how hot it is.

Halgrim watches Adam, looking away only when he begins assembling the plate of food. He accepts it with a quiet, "Thank you," and eats, staring into the fire. When he's done, he sets the plate aside, drinks the last of the water, and sets that down too. He's still for a time, contemplative even. Then: "I'd been with Rolf for almost three years. I first met him in Munich, when I was helping with the, repatriation efforts after the war. He was a geologist, so they had him out finding the Nazi caches. We struck up a friendship and kept in touch afterwards, and…" He swallows, closes his eyes briefly, suggesting a significant history that he's not prepared to detail.

"And Ekaterina, she'd been with us for about, oh, eight months. She was writing a book, and working on a large display for the museum in the fall. She was going to be an amazing curator." He lets out a soft breath. "And Ishmael was a student of mine. I met him when I was a teaching assistant, and he was an undergraduate, and I mentored him until he had his PhD. It was often difficult for him, you know, he was Muslim and from Iraq. He didn't like field work, he was hoping to find a permanent teaching position somewhere that wouldn't require him to do much of it. But he was willing to go out with the three of us." His voice breaks and he stops there, eyes still on the fire. Finally he shakes his head, saying, "Vad har vi gjort? Vad har gjort för oss?" and covers his face with his hands. *What have we done? What has been done to us?*

Adam moves next to Halgrim and puts his arm around him. He says nothing, only offering the rock of his physical presence. Tears of his own slide down his sunken cheeks.

The fire crackles on. The summer night turns around them, the stars thick above. Adam lets Halgrim do what he needs to do, grieve or rage as it might be.

Halgrim leans into Adam, because it's been an entire week of far too much, when things were beginning to improve. Improving from rock bottom, admittedly, but any loss of traction can feel like the start of a slide back to the bottom. He's a fairly quiet, still cryer; he shakes a little bit, like he's trying very hard not to rattle apart, but that's about the only indication he is, in fact, crying.

After a few minutes he lowers his hands, rubs at his face to clear it. "Sorry, I just…between, the situation with Jeb, and the semester starting, and this ridiculous idiot stealing things from the campus, and all of the rest…" He takes a long, shuddering breath, lets it out. "I finally hit my limit." It takes him a few more seconds to recover his compsure, after which he manages small, sad smile. "Thank you. For telling me, all of that. For, feeling like you could, tell me that."

Adam hugs Halgrim to his side, bending his head to press his lips to Halgrim's dark hair. Such an affectionate, open gesture from him—so rare. His own black hair spills around them, a glossy curtain. "I grieve with you, for your beloveds," he murmurs. "You are a fine man, my friend. The fault lies not with you." He strokes Halgrim's back. Straightening up, he looks up at the stars. "Ah, young people," he says, rich with irony. "Jebediah, fighting his friend. Don't fret overmuch about them. They will work it out, or not, and either way we will be here for Jeb." He looks back at Halgrim. "You must rest."

"Doesn't it though?" Halgrim wonders. He's tired in a whole new way now, but it's less painful than previously. He shuts his eyes, resting against Adam. "I saw, the looks on their faces, when I almost lost hold of her, Adam. They were terrified. Especially Elmo — even if they do agree I'm welcome there, I don't think I can go back. I can't…I can't expect them to have me around them when I terrify them." He can't, of course, disagree with the rest, and so makes no attempt to. It's true that their youth was a driving factor in the disaster. "I could sleep for ten years. I'll wake up in 1975 — perhaps things will be better."

"Nonsense," Adam says, but gently. "Jeb knows no fear, you know that as well as I. As for the other young man, he is on one of the vigilante teams, is he not? He will learn to face fear sooner rather than later. If he values your friendship, as he should, you won't frighten him away." He nods, rubbing Halgrim's back. "Sleep as much as you will. If indeed the year is 1975 when you awake, I will still be here."

The fire is warm, Adam's cloak is comfortable, and Adam himself a solid, reliable presence, so Halgrim is inclined to sleep where he sits. It's an old trick from days in the field; you learn to sleep when you can, where you can. He makes a low sound of reluctant agreement, or at least 'we'll see', which is maybe the best one can expect of him right now. As he starts to drift off, he says, "I don't think I've earned this level of friendship from you, you know. At some point," he yawns, "I'm going to need to do the same for you."

"I have no doubt you will," Adam murmurs. Halgrim sleeps, and Adam watches over him.

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